Aayaz Pira, Head of Simplii Financial on The Impact of Digital Tools On Entrepreneurship

Aayaz Pira is the head of Simplii Financial and is a proud advocate for digital tools and how they can simplify all our lives — not just with regard to banking, but also in the way that digital tools impact entrepreneurship and small businesses, along with how the individual consumer lives their life surrounded by tech. Pira spoke with us about how Canadians feel about going digital, the nation’s ambivalent feelings toward technology, and where banking is headed.

During the Elevate conference, Simplii Financial held a panel on the current digital age we are living in, with your colleague Corby Fine, Vice President, participating as a panelist. What is one takeaway from the discussion?

The panel event featured top leaders from digital-focused brands that are setting themselves apart in their industries. The discussion revolved around how Canadians are using digital tools and how they can be empowered to make the most of technology.

We unpacked a lot that evening, but some noteworthy takeaways were how digital is simplifying our lives and the challenges these tools can also influence, how digital tools are impacting entrepreneurship and small business, and the positive impact digital has had on the banking industry, particularly for consumers.

How do Canadians feel about going digital?

In July Simplii released its Deep Dive on Digital Trends report, which examined how Canadians are using technology and how they feel about the everchanging landscape. A key finding of the report, which was also reflected in our panel discussion, was that digital is making a positive impact in our lives, and at the crux of our digital adoption is the desire to simplify our lives so that we can save time.

Beyond this need for efficiency and simplification, almost half of Canadians surveyed told us that technology helps them take better care of their physical and mental well-being and six-in-every-10 Canadians agree it has improved their connection with family and friends. 

However, while we love technology and are eager to adopt it, the report relieved that going digital still comes with conflicting attitudes. For example, we found that there were aspects of our lives, like banking and paying by card, where Canadians preferred to embrace technology. But when it came to things like shopping or connecting with people, Canadians preferred to take the traditional, in real life, approach.

Ultimately, we can’t view our relationship with technology in isolation. It comes with benefits and conveniences, but also points of tension. 

Why did you feel it was important to release a report on Canadian’s attitudes towards digital trends?

Technology and the digital world is unequivocally driving us to live very different lives than 10 years ago. In order to tap into this, we decided to ask how Canadians really feel about digital, and to find out if we can honestly say it is changing our lives for the better. 

The aim was to delve beyond the conventional data points of download rates and subscription levels to find out how we as Canadians are embracing digital and what hesitancies we may still have.

What was the most surprising or insightful finding from the report?

While it was determined that digital is having an overtly positive impact in our lives, our report discovered that it does come with its own set of challenges.

Canadians noted that technology and the digital world can create feelings of anxiousness, complications and emptiness. Further, we discovered that an abundance of digital tools doesn’t always leave us feeling fulfilled. When it comes to using technology, such as apps, nearly half of us agree that most of the apps we download are not actually useful.

Our report detailed that a key takeaway from this tension was that if technology and digital doesn’t create significant value, we quickly abandon it. We embrace technology that simplifies our lives but discard any that becomes a burden.

Generationally speaking, banking was something done in person. Simplii is working to move finance to the digital space. Why is this important? 

Plenty of banking continues to happen in person, particularly when it comes to financial advice. But for day-to-day transactions, consumers increasingly expect the convenience of digital. 

According to our report, the majority of Canadians (45%) reported that they feel digital banking was the digital tool or service that has made the most meaningful impact on our lives. Canadians are finding a lot of value in online and app banking tools because digital applications have simplified so much of the everyday consumers’ experience by making resources more accessible. 

However, a key point made during the panel, which highlighted that it is incredibly important for banking institutions to pay attention to trends in how consumers are using banking services so they can be adaptable and responsive to changing needs.

How do we ensure that going digital doesn’t mean losing the human factor in customer service?

Our panel also touched on this topic and the key takeaway was that trust is a key factor. In any digital business, whether starting out or a big global e-commerce brand, we need to establish trust with our customer base. A big component of establishing and maintaining trust is a consistency in the offer. This is true for all brands but is particularly important for digital brands, who have to establish this trust solely through delivery of their product.

What does innovation mean to you? Is Simplii is creating a digital revolution in the finance world?

Increasing digital uptake and trends in minimalism are key considerations for us as we work to simplify banking and be the best bank in your pocket. To do this, we are building a workplace culture that’s inclusive, collaborative, creative and agile; one that empowers our teams to take ownership to improve and create the very best client experience possible and simplify banking from the inside out.

You are the Executive Sponsor of the Women’s Network at your bank and advisor to Move the Dial. Why is advocating for the advancement of women in technology important to you?

Across our bank, we believe that diverse teams working in an inclusive environment are more innovative, make better decisions, and deliver better results for our clients and shareholders. Being an advocate and sponsoring initiatives that champion the talented women on our teams is crucial at all levels of the tech and the innovation ecosystem.  Industry partnerships are also important. That’s why we are working with organizations like Move the Dial and Hackergal, which is empowering girls to explore the possibilities of code.